The SEC best interest rule has been facing a very tough time. All sides of the argument seem to be against it. Consumer protectionist groups hate the muddled and weak delineating between brokers and advisors, while the industry dislikes the strong rules on title use. Now, there is a new weak spot in the SEC’s approach. The SEC has decided to have “roundtables” with consumers to discern their level of understanding of the rule and get feedback. The move is unusual and the SEC has not disclosed who or how they will do it. All sides again hate this idea, with the head of the Consumer Federation of America saying “Asking investors whether they like the disclosures is virtually meaningless … That needs to be done by disclosure testing experts who know how to design the tests and interpret the results”.
FINSUM: It is very obvious that the SEC’s current poorly defined delineation between brokers and advisors is not going to be easy to understand for consumers. We suspect any kind of consumer testing will help them realize that, but this does seem to be a rather odd and opaque approach.
The rise in yields across the world has seemed to stall over the last couple of months. Ten-year Treasuries are back under 2.9%, and while the yield curve is flattening, the risk of big losses from rising long-term yields seems to be mitigated. Not so fast. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that many of the world’s central banks are now aligning themselves with the Fed and are preparing to begin lifting rates. The pattern is emerging across both the developed and emerging markets (e.g. the Bank of England and the Reserve Bank of India).
FINSUM: We think this could be a risk for US investors. The main reason why being that one of the things that has kept long-term yields low is demand from overseas investors for our relatively higher-yielding bonds. If that changes, there won’t be such a lid on Treasuries.
Anyone hoping the current trade war might have stalled will be sorely mistaken today. While Trump says he plans to to impose an additional $200 bn of tariffs on China in September, he has just said he is ready to go to a full $500 bn of tariffs on Chinese imports. When asked if he thought his plans would cause the stock markets to drop, Trump responded “Well, if it does, it does. Look, I'm not doing this for politics. I'm doing this to do this right thing for our country”.
FINSUM: We think the US does currently get a raw deal in a lot of foreign trade, especially with China. However, the manner in which this “negotiation” is proceeding does seem to be unnecessarily disruptive.
In a highly unusual break from presidential tradition, President Trump weighed in yesterday on the Fed’s current policy approach, and he was not happy. Speaking in regard to recent rate hikes and plans to continue doing so, Trump said “I’m not thrilled … Because we go up and every time you go up they want to raise rates again ... I am not happy about it. But at the same time I’m letting them do what they feel is best.” Speaking plainly, Trump continued “I’m just saying the same thing that I would have said as a private citizen … So somebody would say, ‘Oh, maybe you shouldn’t say that as president. I couldn’t care less what they say, because my views haven’t changed. I don’t like all of this work that we’re putting into the economy and then I see rates going up”.
FINSUM: The media is trying to make a very big deal out of this, but in our view, these are pretty benign comments, especially coming from Trump.
Barron’s has run a new piece warning advisors that they need to keep an eye on some new and growing financial data software that clients are increasingly using. The services, offered by new and old companies like eMoney, SigFig, and Betterment, focus on financial data aggregation, or letting consumers see their full financial picture in one place. The article warns that investors need to stay abreast of these kind of developments to know how to keep their services one step ahead and not let their business be eaten by commoditizing technologies.
FINSUM: The wealth management landscape is changing rapidly, and given how much tasks that used to be very time-consuming have been revolutionized, it should now be second nature for advisors to constantly look over their shoulder to discern how they can continue to add value.